Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hide And Seek

When I started this blog, I intended to do more outfit posts. I'd looked at some of the stuff people were putting up, and while a lot of them were WAY more stylish than anything I ever put together, it seemed simple enough. Put on some nice clothes, take some pictures, list where you got everything, boom, a whole post! Even better, just by being the size I am and putting pictures of my body on the internet, I felt like I was striking a little itty bitty blow for body acceptance every time I did it. I figured even if the pictures that came out weren't the most flattering of me ever taken, that was okay, because I was still contributing to a diversity of image available for women to look at when trying to determine if their body is "okay". Yes, my head told me. This is a Good Thing, and an Easy Thing, and let's do it.

Unfortunately, the tribe of little doubt goblins had some words to say about this whole process. "Yes, we get the image diversity argument," they said. "But how about we don't put up that one where you can see how flabby your arms are? No one will know you have flabby arms if you don't put that picture up. It'll be like they don't even exist." This seemed like a reasonable compromise, so I started trying to only take "flattering" pictures. But I discovered once I gave those little fuckers a foothold, they can find a reason to veto just about every photo ever. "Not that one, you can see your belly. Not that one either, it looks like you don't have a waist. Not that one, you look like you have a double chin." The list of acceptable photos got smaller, and the reasons not to take any at all became almost overwhelming. "Don't do photos today, you're tired and there will be bags under your eyes. Not that dress, it frames your arms weirdly. Do you really think this outfit is worth photographing? I mean, there's nothing really special about it." And so on and so on, until I stopped taking outfit photos at all.

Obviously, eventually, I kicked myself in the butt and told myself to stop being so ridiculous. Sure, I have fatty bits. Sure, my arms look like uncooked hams from a certain angle. But fuck it! Fuck all this bullshit that tells me I'm not good enough for whatever fucking ridiculous reason today. Fuck those gremlins guys! FUCK ALL OF THAT.

At first the gremlins are all, "Listen to meee, I'm ever so cute and only have your best interests at heart!"
...then the next thing you know they're shoving your self esteem in a blender.
But the little gremlins of doubt were still there, waiting behind the bravado to chip away at my confidence again. I got an outfit together, did matching makeup, even did my nails, and asked my boy to come and take some pictures of me in the garden. I was okay for a little while - I'd gone through all my femme rituals to shore up my confidence as much as possible. Hair looked good, makeup looked good, nails looked good, dress showed off my tits and was loose around my belly. Check, check, check. Mr. Reluctant Femme started taking pictures, and as is his habit he showed me each one as he took it for approval. The first couple I was able to look at rationally, calmly, and instruct him not to take the pictures until I indicated I was posed and ready so as to avoid the heavy lidded stoned face I get when someone snaps me mid motion. But then I did a different pose to what I normally do, and when he showed me the picture I wanted to be sick. To my eyes, I looked like I was about nine months pregnant, complete with distended belly, swollen face and double chin. I looked up at him, and said very firmly, "No." He looked quite surprised, but shrugged and deleted it. We did a couple more, almost all of which were vetoed, and finally I tried clambering up on a little wall to try and do a sitting pose. When he showed me the shot he'd taken while I was sitting down I physically reeled back. It looked, to my eyes, like Jabba The Hut in a dress. Just...literally, like Jabba The Hut. By this point I was raw enough to exclaim, "God no!" and Mr. Reluctant Femme was understandably upset. He honestly didn't understand what the problem with the photo was. So I pulled together the last scraps of confidence I had, and we took a few more until I was satisfied I could pull together enough of a post to make the whole ordeal worthwhile.

Later, while reviewing the photos, I tried pointed out the whole area of grotesque bulges as an explanation of why I'd reacted so strongly to some of the pictures, and he replied baffled, "But that's what you look like!"

For a second, this sentence made me want to curl into a little ball and cry. But then something really interesting happened - that sentence somehow triggered a whole unfolding pattern of understanding. I realised, for perhaps the first time, that I actually had never managed to fool Mr. Reluctant Femme into thinking I was thin, or even thinner. I know, that sentence sounds bizarre, but it's a little game that almost every woman I've ever known has played in their heads when it comes to sexual attractiveness. (I'm going to go ahead and guess it's probably not just women who play this game either)

So many of us believe that if we just wear the right things and pose the right way, our partner will somehow be fooled into thinking we're more attractive than we really are. If the charade is broken, if we let our guards down, their eyes will be opened and they'll realise they're dating some sort of grotesque monster, and they'll leave. For someone women I've seen this manifest as a need to wear makeup at all times around their partner - for others it's a "no trackpants" rule where they must wear "decent" clothes at all times. I'd never adhered to either of these - when it comes right down to it, I'm just too fucking lazy. I can keep that up if I'm dating someone casually, but once they move in my track pants are coming out. I've always thought these attempts to hide from someone you're spending your life with seemed a bit ridiculous. But I realised with that one little observation that I was actually playing the exact same game I had dismissing as silly. I still thought I had been somehow fooling Mr. Reluctant Femme. Like he didn't know, like he couldn't see me from unflattering angles, and that's why he hadn't realised and run screaming. Only...he had seen me from unflattering angles, as it turns out. He knows I have a great big jiggly belly, and upper arms that can like uncooked hams in certain light. And...he doesn't care. More than not caring, he seems to actually LIKE these things. Not because of any particular fat fetish, but because it's, as he put it, what I look like, and he's in love with me. Even the parts of me I thought I'd been hiding.

Which led me to a realisation that there is a whole part of this little tangle of neurosis that I HAVE been successfully hiding from him, and I shouldn't be. You see, I fucking HATE admitting to him that I feel fat. I hate, hate, HATE evenings where we're trying to go out and I just can't find anything I feel comfortable in because I've apparently ballooned in 20 minutes and everything suddenly, inexplicably looks awful -  I hate that I can't hide my discomfort from him. I have mornings like that too, relatively often. But he goes to work earlier than I do, and I can have my little freakouts in private and he need never know. But when he's there to witness me taking things on and off and trying not to cry, it makes it all so much worse. I can't bear the thought of being That Girl. The way I figured it, my mental illness and relative unattractiveness on a societal standard were big enough drawbacks - being That Girl would make me nigh undateable. You know the one. The girl who asks their partner, "Do I look fat in this?" and gets angry regardless of what answer they give. The one who orders a salad and then gazes longingly at their partner's steak. The one who is touching up their makeup every 20 minutes, and insists that she looks "awful" first thing in the morning before leaping out of bed to make herself "presentable." You know the girl I mean - she's not a real person, she's an idea that our culture has created of How Girls Are, and I've always LOATHED her. I never, EVER wanted to be her, and admitting to my Boy that I don't always like my body feels perilously close to her territory.

But in a way, not telling him is behaving even more like that insufferable mythical Cleo girl. Not telling him and expecting him to just "know" that any pictures of me should minimise my arms, and then getting snippy when he doesn't, is bullshit. So I'm swearing off it, as of now.

Which brings me to one final revelation for this post, and this one is about you guys. I could just put up the best outfit pictures, do a little ramble about where I got the clothes, and pretend it's no big deal. But I feel like that would be really dishonest. It's not easy. I've read whole forests of literature on fat acceptance and body diversity, and I've talked about it till I'm blue in the face, and I'm a lot more okay with the skin I'm in than I used to be, or indeed than lots of people I know. But full length photos still freak me out. They're still hard, and I don't want you guys to think they're no big deal, and there's something wrong with you if you freak out too. I'm still going to post them, if only as a way for me to work through my own bullshit. But I do sincerely hope that the pictures, in combination with me spilling my innards all over the place, can helps someone work through their bullshit too, in a way that pictures alone can't do.


  1. Great post! :-) Good on you for getting the full length photos out there. xx

  2. Great post, I personally think it's just amazing and brave that you can put any photos up of your body, let alone full-length photos! :) I'm too scared to even post a picture of my face on my blog. Have a great day :)

  3. You might not think this but what a lovely honest post. I so get where you are coming from, I wrote something similar recently about how what we wear DOESN'T hide what we look like so we might as well wear what makes us feel HAPPY, not what we think makes us look slimmer, taller, whatever.

  4. Oh I have felt all of these feels many times. I find I can be so hypercritical of myself - and for what reason? I'm also loved by somebody - not in spite of (or specifically because of) my fat stomach/arms/thighs/whatever - so why do I not see myself the way they see me?

    For all the buzz words and hashtags and feel good pats on the back we can give each other when talking body acceptance, it still doesn't just come naturally for everyone. I'm not saying we shouldn't be doing all these things - we definitely should! - just sometimes among all the positivity it feels a little hard to say "You know what? I'm not always OK with how I look, but I'd like to learn to be".

    So thank you not only for your rad outfit post yesterday, but for also being honest about your experience. Maybe "FUCK ALL OF THAT" just needs to be my new mantra, because damn if I ever rock a hot red dress like you did and think I'm not worthy of photographing then, well... fuck that.

    1. Yes! Exactly that. I agree. It's easy in theory for us to spew out lots of stuff about body acceptance, but so much harder to apply it on a personal level.

      This post was incredibly well written Cassie and really resonated with me. Up until about 6 months ago, I just wouldn't allow people to take photos of me. I just couldn't bear the thought of an ugly, gross, disgusting picture being there forever, for everyone to see. As a result, I literally have no pictures of myself when I was 15 or 16 and I have very few pictures of me from ages 12-15 - which is really sad and I regret it now.


  5. Good on you!

    I had a moment like that recently. I was sprawled on the sofa with my bloke, watching telly in my pajamas (we've lived together for years, I don't make an effort most of the time!) - he looked over and patted my tummy.

    My first reaction was to squeal and tell him how horrible it is that he would draw attention to my flubby tum when I'm chilling out. I started going off on a diatribe about how I can't look great all the time, I'm tired, I should be allowed to relax without being prodded like a zoo animal... The poor guy literally just gave me a kiss and said "but it's cute"!

    Whaaaaa! So those bits that we spend ages trying to hide, thinking that we have hidden... They know about, and find cute... Maybe we should, too!

  6. On one level, it's an intriguing comment on our world that so many of us feel this way. And also terribly sad and angry making. But what I see is you, and you look great and the photo of you and the Boy is just magical.

  7. A) I love you guys, you're both waaaay too adorable.

    B) I have a very similar issue. It's one of the reasons that I take so many selfies, because I have no grasp of what I look like objectively and it freaks me the hell out (and will send me into occasional meltdowns) if I suddenly see myself as 'fat'.

    And of course, the bizarre thing is that the I don't think there's anything wrong with anyone else being 'fat' - it's a double standard that I apply only to myself - when I see myself as fat, I'm the 'wrong type of fat'.

    And yet, no matter how many times I break down sobbing because I'm a 'monster' (which happens more than I'm willing to admit), my Mister is ridiculously understanding because he doesn't care if I've eaten the wrong thing and I have my 'hey look, maybe I'm preggers' bloat on, my body is me and he loves me. 99.99% of the time, it's wonderful and reassuring, but there's also that tiny 00.01% in which I'm just waiting for him to 'realise' that I've been right the whole time.

    Hooray for brains, huh?

  8. Great post and great dress! We say words to ourselves that we would never say to another .... how sad is that! And how we really need to be kinder to ourselves.

  9. One of the reasons I love your blog so much is because you don' t just throw up a handful of outfit photos along with a quick blurb of "I got this here". That's fine for those who want to do that (and having taken blog pics for a friend, I can tell you that of the hundreds of photos I shot over a four-hour period, only a handful were deemed good enough to use). But you are honest, you put yourself out there, and you reveal your innermost thoughts and insecurities in a public forum. I really admire you for that.


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